Snow flurried around the gas station near Afton Mountain while I filled the truck on my way home from a meeting of our writing group in Charlottesville last Thursday. The color radar indicated a large swath of snow but most was evaporating before hitting the ground, the meteorologist in our group had said. Yet layer-by-layer, moisture was building from cloud to ground.

After the meeting, I’d stopped by Shenandoah Joe to resupply our coffee. Then I picked up a 50-pound box of Fatwood fire starters at Plow and Hearth in the Barrack’s Road Shopping Center. A quick trip to the grocery store and gas station, and we were prepared for the weekend and beyond.

snowymeadowjan2017On Friday afternoon, Heathcliff and I walked the mile down the mountain road to the mailbox. Light flurries thinned as we reached the valley but thickened on the way back up the mountain. By the time we got home, white iced the forest floor, meadow and driveway.

Our snowy weekend had begun.

I’d been planning to read Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic Dune for at least two years. The book sat in one of three piles on the end table next to my reclining chair. Over the holidays, having completed another draft of my manuscript and while it was under review, that’s when I’ll read Dune, I promised myself.

But it wasn’t until the snowstorm after the holidays that I spent a weekend on the desert planet Arrakis.

I’d seen David Lynch’s 1984 mess of a film adaptation—perhaps that was the reason why it took so long for Dune to reach the top of my piles. But once I read the first two or three chapters of Dune’s Book I, I was hooked. Two more books and two days later, I read the last sentence, put down the book, and sighed with pleasure: that was one great story.

Frank Herbert built a world of believable places, complex human characters and flawed institutions. Political, religious, ecological, and economic interests collided. Herbert created tension and action scenes amid the characters’ introspection—lots of internal thinking and emotion.

While four or five inches of snow mounded the meadow in front of our house, I traversed the dunes of Arrakis with the Fremens. I wore a stillsuit to recycle my body’s water and walked with un-patterned pacing so as not to call the monstrous sandworms. I secreted myself in the desert’s rock outcroppings, smelled the spice like cinnamon, and saw the spice-eating characters’ eyes glow blue.

Keith and I cleared snow off the deck on Saturday afternoon then tackled the driveway on Sunday. Temperatures never rose above the teens. The smell of wood fires wafted across the landscape.

The forecast calls for temperatures above freezing tomorrow and considerably higher by the end of the week. When Heathcliff and I walk the mountain road to the mailbox next Friday afternoon, we’ll attune ourselves to the sensory world around us like we usually do. But in my imagination, I might see snow or sand dunes and smell wood fires or spice.


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